Inexpensive LED bulbs now available in PECO service area

CREE LED bulbs on sale

For some time, PECO (our local electric company) has been subsidizing high-efficiency bulbs. The current special is the best I’ve seen. For about $5, you can now get industry leading CREE LED bulbs, as well as the highly rated Philips bulbs at your local Home Depot.

If you’ve been considering trying LED bulbs but have found the price to be prohibitive, now’s the time to try a few. The energy savings can easily pay for the bulbs in under a year and they’re so long lasting that you’ll likely never have to change them.

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Initial impressions of the CREE 60w Warm White LED Bulb

Having received the just released CREE 60w warm white LED bulb, I wanted to get you my impressions ASAP since many of you are already asking about this ground-breaking bulb.

The vital stats:

  • Manufacturer: CREE
  • Cost: 6-pack, $74.82 at Homedepot.com = $12.47 each.
  • Brightness: 60w equivalent – 800 lm
  • Consumption: 9.5 Watts
  • Efficiency: 84.2 lm/W
  • Life: 25,000 hours
  • Usage: Indoor/outdoor
  • Dimmable!
  • Assembled in the USA
  • Lead free / Mercury free

For comparison, an incandescent bulb has:

  • Cost: 4-pack, $6.00 on Amazon (Philips name-brand bulb). Sylvania are close to $0.50/bulb.
  • Brightness: 860 lm
  • Consumption: 60 Watts
  • Efficiency: 14.3 lm/W
  • Life: rated 1,000 hours

Operational costs?

Based on simple lifetime cost, the LED lasts 25x as long as the rated life of the incandescent and is roughly 25x the cost of the inexpensive Sylvania bulbs, so by that measure, these are the “same cost.” However, that doesn’t figure in inconvenience of having to replace the incandescent 25 times, going to the store, or paying for the electricity! It doesn’t take a physicist to see that the CREE LED bulb is the big winner.

For the 25,000 life of the bulb, the CREE saves 1262 kWh or electricity. That’s a LOT of energy savings! How much? That’s about a month of your home’s entire electric usage. Compare that with your electric bill and you’ll immediately estimate your cost savings. For me, this electricity costs about $200. 

Subjective comparison

The bulb feels different from any other bulb. It must have some sort of rubberized coating on the translucent housing. It almost sticks to your hands. In fact, I felt the urge to wash my hands after touching it. Very strange. The positive thing about this is that you’re not going to drop this bulb., unlike normal glass, which is slippery.

I immediately replace the bulb in my desk lamp, which is an old CFL. That works fine once it warms up, but it always seems to be a dim yellow for the first 10 minutes, by which point, I’m about to leave the room. Note however that I strongly recommend that you use this in fixtures with good reflectors on the back surfaces. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of light that doesn’t reflect off the back of the fixture. I learned this the hard way in my downlights (recessed light fixtures). Standard incandescent flood lights have internal mirrored surfaces to project the light forward. These LED lights are omni-directional, so you’ll waste a lot of their light output if they’re used in fixtures without good reflectors.

The CREE, being an LED light, is essentially instant-on to full brightness – very nice.

As for the color, it does appear to be a “warm white.” If you don’t tell someone that it’s an LED, they probably wouldn’t know, which is exactly the effect they’re looking for. In fact, combined with the shape of the bulb, I’m guessing that the only way one would know that this isn’t a regular bulb is when you dim it. Incandescent bulbs grow very warm at lower dimmer settings, whereas LEDs maintain their color temperature throughout the range or brightness.

The next replacement was in one of the downlights in my bathroom. These are particularly important because you want to maintain a neutral skin-tone. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and see a strange skin tone! In this case, the yellowish cast is definitely noticeable compared to the incandescent. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s quite obvious.

I then replaced the LED in my closet, which was a bright blue (my wife says it looks like s dentist’s office or something). The change in color was very apparent – definitely yellowy. I’m not sure it I like it or not. It’s definitely “warmer” but perhaps not as natural. I need to try some of the whiter versions of the CREE bulb which is supposed to be off-white. Here’s a comparison photo:

Which is which?

Which is which?

The container is very white while the counter tiles are almond. The photo was taken using the camera with manual white balance that is tuned for incandescent bulbs, so it will make the incandescent image look as white as can be. If you used a spectrophotometer, you’d get a more accurate image. However, it’s not how you’d perceive the colors.

Looking at the color spectrum, I found what would be expected, the light from the LED bulb consists of three distinct peaks – red, green and blue, whereas the incandescent is a smooth spectrum. In theory, you should be able to come up with a close color match using the three primaries, but contrary to popular opinion, you will not be able to perfectly match the color produced by a continuous spectrum source.

Perceptually, these images are a fairly close match to what I was seeing. Pretty good colors but not exactly what I’m used to. Your mileage may vary!

Here’s a striking comparison between the LED and the CFL using my desk lamp. Again, I kept the white balance on the camera set to “incandescent”, meaning a pure white would match an incandescent (which really isn’t white, but it’s what we perceive as white in our ordinary indoor experience).

Using the same camera settings, the LED is much closer to an incandescent

Using the same camera settings, the LED is much closer to an incandescent

Keep in mind that perception changes our reality. The CFL doesn’t really look that yellow, because our brain tries to color balance things. However, the camera is good at showing things without this bias. The main take-home message is that the LED bulb is a vastly better match for what we normally think of as household lighting.

As you try out different bulbs, let us know what you think. The CREE, at only around $10 has broken new ground for quality and efficiency.  It’s well worth a try.

The Energy Geek Video 2: LED Recessed Light Retrofit

A lot of people ask me about recessed lights, so I put together this video so you could see some of the pros and cons of the best LED light I’ve ever seen.

The CREE LR6, LED based recessed light retrofit is the current one to beat. It’s simply amazing. It turns on instantly, it supplies high quality light and it’s built like a tank. Watch the video for the full scoop!

*Update: 3/13/2011*

After reading some other reviews, I decided to purchase several CREE CR6 retrofits. You can get them on the Home Depot website for $50 and they’re supposed to be dimmable down to 5% as opposed to 20% for the CR6. So there’s some hope for a good dimmable retrofit bulb.

I’ll do another video comparing the two once I’ve had a chance to play with the CR6.

CREE also has a number of other new lights that I wasn’t aware of. The new LR6 puts out 50% more light for the same amount of watts for a luminous efficacy of 80 lm/W

Other posts and sites covering the Cree LR6

Consumer Reports – preview of the CREE CR6

CREE 6″ downlights page – The official CREE page on all their downlight products. Dimmable to 20%

CREE CR6 page – The official CREE page on the CR6 “low cost” LED light. Dimmable to 5%.

CREE LR6 page – The official CREE page on the LR6. Dimmable to 20%

Dave Hultin blog post – The CREE LR6 – A Beautiful Light!

Dave Hultin blog post – The CREE LR6 – It Really is That Good!

GreenTex Builders – Commercial builder’s perspective on the CREE LR6

House+Earth – LED Lighting – CREE LR6 & CR6 Can Lights

Inside Solid-State Lighting – CREE LR6 Downlight Replacement

Ranch Remodel – A real homeowner’s blog about remodeling their ranch with CREE LR6 lights